Florida Gov. Rick Scott has been crisscrossing his state, drumming up support for Visit
Florida, its destination marketing organization (DMO), and the target of a bill passed
by the Florida House that would defund it
by 67%. The move
came after six tumultuous months in which
numbers were obscured by a scandal about
a $1 million contract with rapper Pitbull and
questions about transparency. News editor
Johanna Jainchill spoke to Scott about why
the travel industry needs to defend its DMOs.
Q: Destination marketers are worried that
if this can happen in Florida, it can happen
anywhere. Is there a disconnect in Florida
about the return on tourism investment?
A: It’s just politicians. I’ve been in business
all my life. I ran for governor seven years
ago, I’ve always been surprised about what
politicians do, and this is just politicians be-
ing politicians. We know the return is stag-
gering: It’s one in six jobs in Florida. We
know it pays a lot of taxes. We know that for
every dollar we spend we get $3 back in tax
revenues. What I tell people every day is talk
to your House members, talk to your sena-
tors. You’ve got readers in Florida, I’d ask
all your readers to call their representatives
and senators in Florida and tell them that
it’s important to market our state because
it impacts jobs, it pays our taxes, it’s part of
what builds a beautiful state.
When I came in, the state had been
spending about $25
million a year, and we
had about 80 million
tourists a year. Now
we’ve increased the budget to about $76
million, and we had almost 113 million tourists. So the numbers speak for themselves.
But this is pure politics. I’ve been shocked
by some of the things that come out of the
legislature and how they just don’t think.
This is not reality; reality is, if something
works you try to do more of it.
Q: I hear the House bill isn’t likely to get a
companion bill in the Senate. At this point
are you mostly fighting to defend Visit Florida’s budget?
A: First off, we’re only in our third week
of session so I want to
make sure all the House
members know the importance of Visit Florida.
To show how Visit Florida
works and operates every
day, which they do very
well, and to make sure
they are fully funded. I asked for $76 mil-
lion. The truth is we can spend $100 million
well. The budget I asked for is $76 million,
and I want to make sure it’s fully funded.
Q: Is there validity to the arguments that
changes need to be made at Visit Florida
to be more transparent, etc.?
A: It’s very important that if you’re using
state dollars it has to be transparent and
that is what Visit Florida has done. They
are more transparent. They put their sala-ries online, things like that, because it’s
taxpayer money. Absolutely. And I brought
in new leadership.
But here’s what you don’t do in
business: When something
goes wrong, you don’t
say, ‘Oh, I’ll just shut my
doors.’ You say, ‘I need to
fix that.’ You might bring
in new talent, but you
go forward and try to
be better. In this case you wouldn’t shut it
down. You’d say, ‘Let’s make sure there is
more transparency,’ which I completely sup-
port, and we already brought in new leader-
ship. But you don’t shut it down.
Q: What can the greater travel industry do
to avoid these situations going forward?
A: We know the lessons. We know that
when Colorado cut its marketing budget out
20 years ago they saw their market share for
tourism go down. It took a long time for it
to come back. We saw what happened in
Pennsylvania in 2009 when they cut their
marketing budget from $30 million to $7
million. The next year they lost $600 million
just in revenues. It’s unbelievable how
many jobs they lost over that. We
know what happens.
Everybody who is involved in
the travel industry has got to talk
to their House members and
their senators. This is very
significant to our country. Be-
cause we’re not just competing
to get people to go to our state
vs. another state, we’re compet-
ing with people coming to Flor-
ida or going to Ireland or
Japan or Dubai, all
over the world.
‘When something goes wrong,
you don’t say, “Oh, I’ll just
shut my doors.” You say, “I
need to fix that.” ’
At sister publication Travel Weekly China’s CruiseWorld event in Shanghai last week,
leaders of cruise lines that market
in China were asked to predict how
many ships they’ll have homeport-
ing there in five years.
“My parents told me never to make pre-
dictions, and especially not to make pre-
dictions about the future,” said Roger
Chen, Carnival Corp.’s China chairman,
prompting laughter from the audi-
ence. But he did venture to say, “We
will have the biggest fleet in China.”
Without contradicting Chen,
Royal Caribbean International’s
president of China and North Asia
Pacific Region, Zinan Liu, nonethe-
less played one-upsmanship by saying
his company would have the most capacity
“in China and Asia.”
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings China
president David Herrera, while expressing
optimism and excitement about the future,
said that his focus, at the moment, was on “the
next 100 days” — roughly the amount of time
before Norwegian’s first China ship, the Joy,
will launch. And without offering a specific
number, SkySea Cruise Line CEO Ken Muskat
implied growth, saying there would be “more”
than the one ship the line currently sails.
The most definitive answer came from
Hur-tigruten’s president of China and Asia-Pacific,
William Harber: “We specialize in coldwater
cruising. In five years, we will have zero ships
Stateside last week, at the Destination
Marketing Association International
CEO meeting in Nashville, mayor
Megan Barry had some advice for
mayors around the country: “If
there’s ever a TV show that wants
to come and name it after your city?
Say yes.” She was referring, of course,
to the series “Nashville,” in which Barry
had the opportunity to play herself in a recent episode. When Charles Esten, one of the
show’s stars, told her that he hated when non-actors like her came on and made it look “really
easy,” she responded, “I’m playing myself. How
hard can that be?”
Colleen Conley has been named Travel-savers’ director of new business development, focusing on agency recruitment.
Conley previously held the position of
director of national sales at Ensemble
Travel Group, as well as management
and development positions at Carlson
Wagonlit Travel Leisure Division.
Delta Vacations named Jennie Ho president, replacing John Caldwell, who was
promoted to the position of Delta Air
Lines’ vice president, Seattle.
Ho previously served as managing
director for specialty and Canada sales
for Delta Air Lines (Delta Vacations is a
wholly owned subsidiary of the airline).
She began her career at Delta in 1998
and has held numerous positions.
Also, Tina Iglio has been promoted
to managing director, global sales sup-
port, for Delta Air Lines. Previously, she
served as senior vice president for Delta
Jeff David is the new managing director
of Washington’s Watergate Hotel, which
reopened in June 2016 following a $200
He joins the Watergate team from
the boutique luxury hotel Greydon
House in Nantucket, Mass., where he
held the position of managing partner.
Prior to Greydon House, David opened
and managed New York’s Knickerbocker, a member of the Leading Hotels of
the World and the first luxury hotel in
Times Square, following a massive renovation project.
His luxury pedigree also includes six
years at the Viceroy Hotel Group as a
general manager at several hotels and
positions with Four Seasons Hotels &
Resorts and Rosewood Hotels and Resorts’ Little Dix Bay on Virgin Gorda in
the British Virgin Islands.
IN THE H T SEAT
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Governor Rick Scott
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